12 - Buddhist History 4: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 2 - Before and After Enlightenment
22 - How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 1

This is the first episode of two on the Buddha’s 45-year teaching career and the establishment of the Buddhist community. I’ll talk about the Buddha’s first sermons, the enlightenment of the first disciples, the first lay students of the Buddha and how lay practice figures into early Buddhism, and the initial formation of the ordained Sangha and how they practiced on a daily basis.

Read/listen to Life of Shakyamuni Part 2 first



Quicklinks to Transcript Content:
I’ll Mention Buddha’s Teachings but Explain Them Elsewhere [3:20]
The First Sermon: Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path [4:45]
Enlightenment: Arhats, Nirvana, and Buddhas [7:00]
The Second Sermon: The Discourse on the Not-Self Characteristic [11:53]
The Buddhist Community Begins to Form [13:30]
The View of Lay (Householder) Life [17:06]
The Growth of the Sangha and Empowerment of Teachers [21:57]
Daily Life and Practice of the Early Sangha [24:45]
Mindfulness and Meditation [28:15]
Emphasis on Knowing for Yourself [31:56]
The Buddha Visits His Family [34:12]


This is the 5th episode in my Buddhist History series. In the first two episodes of the series, I gave you a sense of the social and religious environment in India into which Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born. In the third and fourth episodes, I told you the life story of the Buddha, and in Episode 9 – part of my Buddhist Teachings series – I talked in detail about what it was the Buddha realized in his enlightenment.

When I told you the story of the Buddha’s life, I covered his childhood, spiritual search, and awakening, and then I glossed over his 45-year teaching career and talked about his death. That way you got a sense of the arc of his entire life, but now I’m going to go back to devote two whole episodes to the Buddha’s teaching career and the establishment of the Buddhist community, or Sangha. (In the next Buddhist History episode, I’ll mention more of the major teachings the Buddha gave during his lifetime, and continue the story of the Sangha, including the adoption of the monastic code and the ordination of women.)

I’ll Mention Buddha’s Teachings but Explain Them Elsewhere

Throughout this story, I’ll naturally come to teachings the Buddha gave during his lifetime. I’ll mention and briefly describe some of the most important ones, but I won’t go into them in detail, because each of the teachings deserves at least a whole episode of its own! You can learn more by listening to my “Buddhist Teachings” series; I’ll be dedicating at least seven of those episodes to explaining these original instructions from the Buddha himself.

If you want to learn more about any of the teachings I mention right away, a great resource is the book The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Sometimes the story of the Buddha is told without references and citations, which means you don’t know whether the story is from one of the oldest, original sources like the Pali Canon, or from later elaborations on the tale that are more like myths (whereas Nanamoli’s book gives you the sources). For this episode, I relied heavily on Nanamoli’s book and on other Pali Canon sources (see endnotes for citations).

The First Sermon: Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path

So, back to the story: As I mentioned in the last Buddhist History episode, after the Buddha’s enlightenment, he sat – blissed out in meditation – for a prolonged period. He had doubts about whether to teach what he had realized because he thought it was too subtle for people to comprehend. Eventually he decided to try teaching the five ascetics he practiced with before he gave up asceticism. He preached to them the Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion Sutta.[i] In this sermon, he taught the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. In brief:

The Middle Way: the path of spiritual practice and inquiry which avoids extremes, particularly the extremes of sensual indulgence and asceticism.

The Four Noble Truths: Basically, all conditioned things are marked by dukkha, or dissatisfactoriness (also translated as suffering, or stress), when we try to take permanent refuge in them. If we can recognize that dukkha is caused by our own grasping and aversion, we can learn to let go of that grasping and aversion and thereby be freed from dukkha. The fourth noble truth is the way to do that, which is the Eightfold Noble Path.

The Eightfold Noble Path: The path leading to the cessation of dukkha, namely appropriate view or understanding, appropriate resolve or intention, appropriate speech, appropriate action, appropriate livelihood, appropriate effort, appropriate mindfulness, and appropriate concentration or meditation. Again – more on this later, in another episode!

Enlightenment: Arhats, Nirvana, and Buddhas

The five ascetics listening to the Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion sermon were wholeheartedly converted and soon achieved liberation the same way the Buddha had. Thereafter, these students were called arhats, or “worthy ones,” and it was believed that they had achieved perfect understanding and conduct, and were thereby liberated from the cycle of transmigration. As I described in Episode 5, the contemporary Indian view of cosmology was that human beings were bound to an endless cycle of rebirth in which they were doomed to endure the indignities of life over and over – the pain of birth, loss, old age, illness, and death – unless they found a spiritual “way out” of the process. According to the Buddha, it was primarily wrong views that compelled a person to be reborn – and therefore an arhat, freed from wrong views, would not be born again.

Another way to put it is that arhats are people who achieve nirvana, or nibbana in Pali. The concept of nibbana is tricky, and it’s possibly the most widely misunderstood teaching in Buddhism. It’s essentially synonymous with “ultimate liberation” – which means liberation from dukkha and of course, as I mentioned above, from the cycle of transmigration. It’s important to realize nibbana is not a state or a place; it’s a cessation of afflictive beliefs, experiences and sensations. As a matter of fact, one translation of it is extinction.

Now, before you conclude nibbana is an entirely negative thing – that Buddhism’s ultimate goal is more or less equivalent to death – let me explain a little more. I will go into the concept of nibbana in depth in a future Buddhist Teachings episode, but suffice it to say that the Buddha described nibbana as being most excellent, desirable, even pleasurable and blissful. It is the end of pain – which, while it can only be described negatively, is a wonderful thing. In an essay called “Nibbana,”[ii] Thanissaro Bhikkhu describes how nibbana literally means “extinguishing of a fire,” and the choice of this term to describe enlightenment is the result of the ancient Indian understanding of fire. A flame was seen as being trapped to its fuel – and you can see why they thought this, given the way flames appear to be trying to leap away from whatever material is burning. Therefore, when a flame was extinguished, it was released from its fuel; therefore, the term nibbana was meant to imply release from what traps or torments, resulting in freedom.

Of course, the key is that most ordinary beings are attached to the fuel of their suffering – conditioned existence, material pleasure, a sense of self, etc. – and we fear annihilation. This misunderstanding makes us mistrust a concept like nibbana, even though the Buddha explained that it’s a kind of sublime pleasure and joy, incredibly refined, and preferable to every less-refined state.[iii] But more on this topic in a future episode…

What’s the difference between an arhat and a Buddha, if both have achieved awakening? The answer to that is a little subtle. Basically, in original Buddhism, a Buddha is considered to be an arhatplus – that is, he has an arhat’s realization, conduct, and liberation from transmigration, but he’s also an unsurpassed teacher of others. As Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi explains in an article on the Access to Insight website (accesstoinsight.org), a Buddha has powers and insights ordinary arhats do not, including “the knowledge of the diverse inclinations of beings…  and the knowledge of the degree of maturity of the faculties of other beings… [and such] types of knowledge enable [a] Buddha to understand the mental proclivities and capacities of any person who comes to him for guidance, and to teach that person in the particular way that will prove most beneficial, taking full account of his or her character and personal circumstances.”[iv]

The Second Sermon: The Discourse on the Not-Self Characteristic

The Buddha then delivered to his small band of students what is traditionally considered to be his second sermon, usually called The Discourse on the Not-Self Characteristic. I went into this teaching in detail in Episode 14: The Three Marks and the Teaching of Not-Self (Anatta), so here I’ll just summarize the main points:

The Five Skandhas: A human being is described as composed for five skandhas, or aggregates, including physical form, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. When a teaching is applied to the five skandhas, it’s meant to apply to the entirety of human life and experience.

Anicca, or Impermanence: The Buddha points out that all conditioned things, including and most importantly the five skandhas themselves, are “marked by anicca,” or are impermanent and subject to inevitable change and dissolution.

Dukkha, or Dissatisfactoriness: Human beings constantly search for permanent refuge in conditioned things, leading to dukkha, which can be translated as dissatisfactoriness, stress, or suffering.

Anatta, or Not-Self: The first step to avoid experiencing dukkha is to stop identifying any conditioned things as self, or as belonging to self – that is, to recognize their characteristic of anatta, or not-self.

The Buddhist Community Begins to Form

The five former ascetics now studying with the Buddha become arhats, but they also become bhikkhus, or monks. At some point, each one expressed their desire to devote themselves entirely to the path of the Dharma as presented by Shakyamuni Buddha, saying, “Lord, I wish to go forth under the Blessed One and to receive the full admission.” (Going forth meant to leave the household life.) The Buddha replied to each request individually, saying, “Come, bhikkhu… The Dhamma is well proclaimed. Live the holy life for the complete ending of suffering.”[v] This exchange constituted full monastic ordination in Buddha’s order – at least for the time being.

The exact order of events in the Buddha’s life and teaching isn’t always clear, but a source in the Pali Canon tells the story of how the Buddhist community first began to grow.[vi] The Buddha and the first five bhikkhus continued to live in the way they had been doing for many years: dwelling in the forest, traveling around the countryside begging for food and sharing teachings, and single-mindedly pursuing their spiritual practice. (This was a traditional, if marginal, way of life in ancient India that I described in Episode 6: Arising of Buddhism Part 2: New Religious Developments in India Around 500 BCE). At some point the Buddha encounters a rich young nobleman named Yasa in the Deer Park as Isipatana.

Yasa had just come from an experience much like the Buddha’s own: the young man had awakened in the middle of the night to find himself surrounded by his female “attendants” fast asleep – and therefore not at their prettiest. As most of us are when we’re asleep, they were disheveled, drooling, and mumbling. Yasa was suddenly overcome with revulsion and horror and the scene reminded of him of a charnel ground, where corpses were brought to be burned (that is, he was vividly struck by our mortality, and lost his infatuation with youth and beauty). He slipped out of his home before daybreak, intending to embark on the spiritual path of homelessness like the Buddha had years earlier.

In the Deer Park, Yasa meets the Buddha and laments, “It is fearful, it is horrible!”[vii] The Buddha assures Yasa this is not the case and proceeds to teach the young man the Dharma, which puts Yasa’s heart at ease. When Yasa’s father comes looking for him, the Buddha preaches to the father too, who is so impressed he exclaims that from this day forth, he will go to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for refuge. Thus Yasa’s father becomes the first person ever to “take refuge” in the Three Treasures (see Episode 2 for more about the Three Treasures) and the first lay Buddhist. While listening to Shakyamuni instruct his father, Yasa attains arhatship. After having done so, it is said Yasa “is no longer capable of reverting to what he has left behind and enjoying sensual pleasures in the house life as he used to do” – so he asks for and receives ordination as a bhikkhu.

The View of Lay (Householder) Life

Statements like this, that arhatship is incompatible with lay life, are found throughout the Pali Canon. A sutta called The Fruits of the Contemplative Life (DN 2), sums up the view of household life that continues to be a part of many kinds of Buddhism to this day:

“A householder or householder’s son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathagata [Buddha] and reflects: ‘Household life is confining, a dusty path. The life gone forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair and beard, put on the ochre robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?’”[viii]

Many people have gotten the impression from the Pali Canon that the Buddha said you have to become a monk to attain enlightenment, but this isn’t exactly true. Practically speaking, the Buddha and early Buddhists thought a household life wasn’t the most conducive to practice and awakening because a householder had so many responsibilities and temptations to sensuality. If you really wanted to devote yourself to Buddhist study and practice, it was ideal to leave home and become a monk. However, the Pali Canon makes clear that even in the midst of household life, many people attained high levels of spiritual liberation – many of them reaching the status of “non-returner.

Non-returner was the second-highest of the four levels of great spiritual attainment differentiated in the Pali Canon, right below arhat. To understand the significance of the level of non-returner, let’s start back at the lowest level of great attainment, already impressive, which was stream-enterer: Someone who had entered the stream which flowed inevitably to nibbana (although final attainment might take multiple lifetimes). The second level was a once-returner, who would be reborn in this world one more time before attaining nibbana. The third was the non-returner, who would be reborn in a heavenly realm in the next life, where he or she would attain nibbana. Finally there was the arhat, who had attained nibbana in this life and, upon death, wouldn’t be reborn anywhere.

As it appears in the Pali Canon, being a householder doesn’t even prevent someone from attaining nibbana in this life, as numerous lay disciples of the Buddha attained arhatship before they become monks, as in the case of Yasa. The reason arhatship was incompatible with the household life was because, once one become an arhat, one lost all taste for the household life. This is what happened to Yasa, who was described after his awakening as “not capable” of returning to household life, so he entered the ordained Sangha.

While we’re on the topic of householder Buddhists, the Buddha also gave occasional sermons addressed specifically to lay people. They covered many aspects of lay life including wise governing, how to treat one’s family and employees, and refraining from gambling. For example, the Sigalovada Sutta is also known as the Layperson’s Code of Discipline, and in it the Buddha explains to the householder Sigala:

“Inasmuch, young householder, as the noble disciple (1) has eradicated the four vices in conduct, (2) inasmuch as he commits no evil action in four ways, (3) inasmuch as he pursues not the six channels for dissipating wealth, he thus, avoiding these fourteen evil things, covers the six quarters, and enters the path leading to victory in both worlds: he is favored in this world and in the world beyond. Upon the dissolution of the body, after death, he is born in a happy heavenly realm.”[ix]

In summary, a layperson is advised to refrain from killing, stealing, adultery, and lying, and from committing actions out of desire, anger, ignorance, and fear. He is also supposed to be responsible and take care of his family by not “dissipating wealth” through things like idleness, indulging in intoxicants, and gambling. The Sigalovada Sutta also gives advice about how to tell a true friend, care for one’s parents and children, and how be a good spouse, teacher, and employer – so clearly the everyday life and conduct of lay people was of concern to the Buddha.

The Growth of the Sangha and Empowerment of Teachers

According to the story in the Pali Canon, shortly after the Buddha ordained Yasa, he ended up converting Yasa’s mother and former wife, who became the first lay women Buddhists. Then over 50 of Yasa’s friends, curious about what had cause him to become a monk, came and heard the Buddha speak. The friends promptly followed Yasa into homelessness and achieved arhatship, at which point the Pali Canon says, “there were sixty-one Arahants in the world.”[x]

The Buddha told all of these arhat bhikkhus they were free to wander, and asked them to teach the Dhamma to others “out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare and happiness of gods and men.”[xi] These monks travel around the countryside and end up bringing a whole bunch of men back with them who want to receive admission to the order of bhikkhus. Shakyamuni realizes ordaining each person himself was going to be very inefficient and troublesome for all involved, so he decides to empower bhikkhus to give the “going forth” and admission to the order. At this point he establishes the first Buddhist ordination ceremony (remember, previously he admitted monks simply by saying to them, “Come, bhikkhu”). The Buddha instructs:

“…first the hair and beard should be shaved off. Then after putting on the yellow robe the upper robe should be arranged on one shoulder and homage should be paid at the bhikkhu’s feet [that is, the person performing the ordination]. Then kneeling with the hands held out palms together, this should be said: ‘I go for refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the Dhamma, I go for refuge to the Sangha. For the second time [I go for refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the Dhamma, etc.]… For the third time…’ I allow the going forth and the admission to be given by the Triple Refuge.”

Ever since, for thousands of years, people become Buddhists by reciting the Triple Refuge three times. Modern Theravadin monks also continue to dress the way the Buddha prescribed, with a yellow or orange robe wrapped around their body and over one shoulder, with the other shoulder left uncovered.

Subsequently, through a series of clever uses of his supernatural powers, the Buddha impresses and eventually converts a handful of “matted-hair ascetics” who themselves led hundreds of other ascetics – so when the conversions and ordinations were all said and done, there were now hundreds of bhikkhus. It wasn’t long before the Sangha numbered over a thousand.

Daily Life and Practice of the Early Sangha

Now we have Buddhist bhikkhus wandering the countryside, spreading the Dharma. As I mentioned earlier, they lived outdoors and begged for their food. Monks were free to practice by themselves, but they often congregated in groups – the Buddha, in particular, was rarely alone, but almost always surrounded by a large retinue of students. Most of the Pali Canon sutras (or suttas in Pali, meaning scriptures that contain discourses by the Buddha) begin by describing where the Buddha was at the time the teaching was given, who else was there, and the student(s) to whom the teaching was addressed, so we know quite a lot about the typical interactions between the Buddha, his monks, lay students, and the public.

Eventually, lay supporters donated land to the Sangha, or the community of monks, so they could settle down for longer periods – particularly during the rainy season. Apparently, large troops of monks wandering around during the rainy season resulted in them treading on growing plants and this pissed some people off and they complained. When the Buddha heard this, he said, “Bhikkhus, I allow a fixed residence for the rains.”[xii]

What did the practice of these early bhikkhus look like? There’s a nice summary of the aspects of intensive Buddhist practice given in the Majjhima Nikaya 39, called the The Greater Discourse at Assapura.[xiii] In it, the Buddha lists nine ways his monks need to train themselves in order to be able to accurately claim they are “contemplatives,” and therefore worthy of receiving the requisites of robes, food, lodging and medicine from the laity. He says they need to:

  1. Be endowed with conscience and concern (be mindful of the consequences of wrong-doing)
  2. Maintain purity of conduct with body, speech, mind, and livelihood (I’m not sure what’s meant by livelihood for a monk, but presumably it means being mindful about how you go about getting support from the laity)
  3. Restrain the senses (basically, be careful about what you expose yourself to, so as to minimize the arising of negative qualities such as greed or distress)
  4. Exercise moderation in eating
  5. Maintain wakefulness (minimize the amount you sleep so you can diligently and constantly “cleanse the mind of any qualities that would hold it in check”)
  6. Practice mindfulness and alertness (be aware at all times of what you are doing and whether you are engaging the training)
  7. Abandon the hindrances (covetousness, ill will and anger, sloth and drowsiness, restlessness and anxiety, and uncertainty)
  8. Practice the four jhanas, or levels of meditative concentration (I’ll explain more below)
  9. Work to gain the Three Knowledges (direct, personal experience of the liberating insights – recollection of past lives, leading to insight into the workings of karma, or the law of moral causation, leading to insight into Four Noble Truths).

Mindfulness and Meditation

Obviously, the central Buddhist practices were mindfulness and meditation. The modern, secular use of the term “mindfulness” often refers to an overall approach to mental health that usually includes some seated meditation, but the Buddhist uses of these terms are more specific. Buddhist mindfulness is maintaining alert, energetic awareness of what you’re doing and experiencing at any given time. While you practice mindfulness, you may be sitting in meditation or you may be eating, resting, or carrying on a conversation.

In fact, the most famous teaching the Buddha gave on mindfulness is called the Satipatthana Sutta, often called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta,[xiv] and it starts with cultivating awareness of your everyday experiences. In it, the Buddha describes how to train your mind by first learning to focus on your body “in and of itself” – being aware when you’re sitting that you’re sitting, being aware when you’re standing, walking, eating, etc.  Then you focus on feelings (that is, positive, negative, and neutral reactions), and then you learn to focus on and identify your various states of mind. You build up your ability to hold an object of mindfulness in awareness and learn how to observe it objectively rather than getting caught up in the drama of it. Finally, you turn your mindfulness toward what are called “mental qualities,” but are essentially the fundamental aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. You learn to discern and pay attention to components of the Dharma, including the five aggregates, or skandhas, and the Four Noble Truths.

Meditation, on the other hand, is a little different. It’s a state of concentration that requires you to set everything else aside and allow the mind to become unusually calm. Keep in mind, however, that when you meditate, you don’t leave mindfulness behind. Neither do you leave behind any of the other aspects of the path, like abandoning the hindrances or maintaining wakefulness. You do, however, seek to go deeper into stillness. The Buddha described four levels of meditative concentration, or jhana:[xv]

  1. Withdrawn from sensuality and unskillful (mental) qualities, you enter and remain in the first jhana, where you experience rapture and pleasure resulting from withdrawal; this state is accompanied by directed thought and evaluation.
  2. Then, with the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, you enter & remain in the second jhana, where you experience “rapture and pleasure born of composure, and unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation” — that is, “internal assurance.”
  3. Then, with the fading of rapture, you enter and remain in the third jhana – calm, composed, mindful, alert, and sensing pleasure with the body.
  4. Then, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, you enter and remain in the fourth jhana, and experience pure equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.

Obviously, there’s a whole lot more I could go into about meditation and mindfulness! But let’s return to our story of the Buddha.

Emphasis on Knowing for Yourself

It’s important to realize that throughout his life, Shakyamuni Buddha strongly emphasized what he was teaching, and not that fact that he was teaching it. As I described in the last History episode (Episode 12), at his death he told his disciples they had everything they needed and to thereafter rely only on themselves and on the Dharma he left behind. Throughout his teaching career as well, he encouraged people to investigate the Dharma for themselves and verify the efficacy of the teachings directly.

The classic example of him doing this is in the Kalama Sutta, where he explains to the Kalama clan how to tell authentic spiritual teachers from those who were just making false or self-serving claims. The Buddha sympathizes with their doubt, and tells the Kalamas, “Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’”[xvi] Note that the Buddha doesn’t exclude himself from this consideration; even his disciples aren’t meant to accept a teaching just because he says it. This is a pretty exhaustive list of the ways we usually try to decide what’s true! We’re not supposed to just accept something because it’s tradition, or even because we conclude it’s true using logic.

So, how are you supposed to judge the truth or efficacy of a teaching? The Buddha goes on to say that when you know for yourself that a particular quality is unskillful, blameworthy, and criticized by the wise and when you know from experience that “these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to harm and to suffering — then you should abandon them.” Similarly, if a quality is skillful, praised by the wise, and leads to welfare and happiness, you should enter and remain in them. Basically, test a teaching for yourself and make your decision based on the results.

The Buddha Visits His Family

Before I wrap up this episode, I wanted to share the story of how Shakyamuni Buddha – formerly Siddhartha Gautama – went back to visit his family. As I explained in Episode 11, Siddhartha’s father was the ruler of a small republic, and he’d really hoped his promising son would stick around to take over for him. Alas, the urge to leave home for a life of mendicancy and intensive spiritual striving overtook Siddhartha at age 29, and he abandoned his family, including his wife and baby son, to start his spiritual quest.

Eventually, Siddhartha’s father, Suddhodana, hears about his son’s spiritual attainments and religious community, and sends an emissary to ask the Buddha to visit his birth home of Kapilavatthu. After some time – not immediately – the Buddha wandered to Kapilavatthu and stayed in a nearby park. In the morning he went to his family’s home, sat down, and waited for them to come out. According to the Pali Canon, the Buddha’s former wife, Yasodhara, then sends the Buddha’s son, Rahula, to demand his inheritance. Rahula follows the Buddha around for a bit, saying, “Give me my inheritance, monk; give me my inheritance, monk.”[xvii] In response, the Buddha has another bhikkhu give Rahula the going forth and admission to the order of monks.

I don’t believe the Pali Canon indicates what Yasodhara’s intention was in sending her son out to pester the Buddha for his inheritance (did she mean to imply the Dharma was Rahula’s inheritance?), but the ordination of Rahula is definitely not something king Suddhodana is happy about. He comes out and greets the Buddha respectfully, but then asks whether his son will grant him one favor. He explains, “Lord, I suffered no little pain when the Blessed One went forth. Then there was Nanda [the Buddha’s cousin]. Rāhula is too much. Love for our children, Lord, cuts into the outer skin; having cut into the outer skin, it cuts into the inner skin; having cut into the inner skin, it cuts into the flesh; having cut into the flesh, it cuts into the sinews; having cut into the sinews, it cuts into the bones; having cut into the bones, it reaches the marrow and stays there. Lord, it would be good if the venerable ones did not give the going forth without the parents’ consent.”

The Buddha grants this request, and subsequently parental permission has been required for Buddhist ordination. I suspect this is one of the first examples – I’ll mention more in the next Buddhist History episode – where the Buddha makes a decision about how the Sangha should be run that appears to be based largely on practical concerns about the Sangha’s impact on, and relationship to, the rest of society.

Suddhodana then listens to the Buddha preach the Dharma. According to non-canonical, but respected, sources, Suddhodana attained arhatship before his death years later. Eventually, the Buddha’s former wife and adoptive mother became the first Buddhist nuns – but that’s a story for another day.

Read/listen to Life of Shakyamuni Part 4


[i] “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion” (SN 56.11), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html.
[ii]Nibbana”, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 8 March 2011, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/nibbana.html.
[iii]Nibbana Sutta: Unbinding” (AN 9.34), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.034.than.html.
[iv]Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas”, by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/arahantsbodhisattvas.html.
[v] Vin. Mv. 1:6, in Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon (p. 46). Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[vi] Vin. Mv. 1:7-20, Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon (p. 60). Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[vii] Ibid
[viii] “Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life” (DN 2), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html.
[ix] “Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala” (DN 31), translated from the Pali by Narada Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.nara.html.
[x] Vin. Mv. 1:7-20, Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon (p. 60). Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[xi] Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon (p. 52). Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[xii] Vin. Mv. 3:1; Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon. Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[xiii] “Maha-Assapura Sutta: The Greater Discourse at Assapura” (MN 39), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.039.than.html.
[xiv] “Satipatthana Sutta: Frames of Reference” (MN 10), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html.
[xv] ” Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference” (DN 22), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html.
[xvi] “Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas” (AN 3.65), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html.
[xvii] Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon (p. 78). Pariyatti Publishing. Kindle Edition.


12 - Buddhist History 4: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 2 - Before and After Enlightenment
22 - How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 1